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  • Apr 20, 2014
  • Updated: 11:29pm
NewsChina

Chinese students demand Biden apologise for 'insensitive' comments

'It was a humiliating experience. And how can a graduation speech be this political?' said a UPenn student, taking issue with Biden's comment that China cannot 'think different'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 May, 2013, 11:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 May, 2013, 2:53pm

Chinese students and parents are demanding an apology from US Vice-President Joe Biden for "insensitive" comments, weeks after he referred to China as the nation that cannot “think different” or “breathe free” during a commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I believe Biden should apologise over his inappropriate comments made at my commencement in the face of at least hundreds of Chinese people,” Zhang Tianpu, a graduating Wharton senior and Chinese citizen, told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday.

“It was a humiliating experience,” he said. “And how can a graduation speech be this political?”

Zhang and his peers have already drafted a letter to Biden demanding an official apology. The letter has 343 signatures as of Wednesday and will be sent to the university’s president before reaching Biden's desk.

Requests for comment from Biden's office have not been returned.

Biden’s comments, which were called "inappropriate", hugely disappointed the Chinese in his audience. They were delivered in the middle of his May 13 speech, reported by the Guardian as  “by far the funniest of the recent commencement addresses”.

But not everyone appreciated his jokes. Touching on the concern that “the Chinese are going to eat our lunch”, Biden assured his audience that they had nothing to fear.

“Their problems are immense, and they lack much of what we have,” he said, citing America’s universities, its “open and fair legal” system,  vibrant venture capital markets and innovative minds.

The key to all these, Biden argued, was the ability to “think different”, in a reference to Steve Jobs' slogan for Apple.

“You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free; you cannot think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy.”

To which Zhang argued: “Come on, my ancestors were challenging orthodoxy even before his ancestors got to America.”

Biden mentioned China a second time towards the end when he spoke of his 10-day visit to the Middle Kingdom. Of then president-to-be Xi Jinping, he said: 

“He’s a strong, bright man, but he has the look of a man who is about to take on a job he’s not at all sure is going to end well. I mean that seriously."

In a post that went viral on China’s social media, Zhang interpreted Biden’s message in the following words:

“So because China is ---- up, we are well-positioned. We are well-positioned to lead the world into the 21st century, ” he wrote. ”This is what I think he was saying.”

In an e-mail sent to The Post, Zhang dismissed criticism that he was overreacting.

“After four years of sweat and toil, after four years of spending Chinese New Year without your family, and after four years of eating tasteless food, you have finally earned this day when you can proudly graduate. But you know that all is worth it because you want to learn from an advanced developed country, something you can use to contribute to your hometown. So you decide to call up all of your friends and family to fly across the Pacific Ocean to celebrate with you on this special day. Then, on your graduation day, you get up super early, happily dress up in your academic regalia, and have your friends and relatives seated in the field, cameras ready, recorders turned on, all excited.”

“And then all of sudden, the graduation speaker, who is supposed to be there to congratulate you on your achievement, says to you: you and your nation suck. Regardless of whether that statement is true, how would you feel?”

Zhang had first ranted on China’s popular social media website Renren. His post has since drawn thousands of comments, from supporters and critics.

“Biden isn’t obligated to please China,” commented a reader. “And the right reaction is to catch up with America, instead of whining about it.”

“Don’t attribute to political agenda what can easily be explained by stupidity,” another wrote.

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carmeledwin
Typical of many American politicians. No wonder their foreign policy stinks to high heaven! They wonder why so many people dislike their country. Biden's comments is a good example Who in their right mind would give such a graduation speech?
rocklily88@gmail.com
Of course BIden is not the first offender, When Obama came to Australia a couple of years ago he made a speech in the Australian parliament. You would think he would talk about Australia and the relations between Australia and US, etc, but no, he devoted a large part of his speech to another topic - China. He made all sorts of criticism about china, then he channeled his inner fortune teller and predicted that the Chinese government would collapse very soon. Seriously Obama? Did you forget where you were? You were in the parliament of Australia, why were you even talking about a third country? If you had the guts you would make the speech in China.
rocklily88@gmail.com
Indeed my country should tell the truth, it was one of the countries that followed USA into Iraq in search of WMDs and found none, made a mess and had a lot of people killed, then left with tail between legs. To this date none of these invading countries has the guts to admit that they made a mistake and that because of their 'liberation' the Iraqis continue to suffer.
secrets
These words are coming from the country that blew up their own buildings in 2001.
kohlyang
what biden said is correct, lots of chinese live under the propganda, especially the old generation
rease.92
Well, the last time Chinese students demanded to talk to their own government that government was hiding. And then shot the students and they are still keeping silent about how many students they shot.
It's June 4 soon. Let's welcome all mainland students in Hong Kong in Victoria Park, where, every year since 1989, Hong Kong people remember dead mainland students.
When was the last time mainland Chinese students demanded an apology from their own government for killing Chinese students in 1989?
freedom hong kong
There might be merit in the speech but simply inappropriate words for the VP of USA on such an ocassion
cheeky
Chinese aren't smart. How else to explain why so many Chinese think the world of Western people and culture and Americans in particular. Why so obsessed about people who really don't give a **** about you. I don't think Biden did anything wrong, at least he was truthful about what he thought about China and hence Chinese.
Wake up Chinese people. Learn their technology, find their weaknesses and topple them one day. While all these are happening, make sure you know what they really think of you? ****.
waynewing
Would you mind explaining your second sentence which baffled me a little?
And do you mean that one is always right so long as he's speaking of what he "truthfully thought about"? Well then I would be gladly and righteously call you a **********. But I prefer not to, cause that may not only hurt your precious superiority but also your self-esteem (a thing I doubt if you've ever heard of)
jacobsfleung
Is it ture that many Chinese still believe they can think different and breathe free in China?

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